WARNING: This article contains descriptions of sexual abuse
A woman who said she was sexually assaulted by Peter Nygard at the Toronto headquarters of his company told court that the Canadian fashion mogul repeatedly berated her during the alleged attack for resisting his advances.
She told the court: “He was yelling at me, ‘What’s wrong with you? You know how it works … Why aren’t you co-operating? Why aren’t you letting me do this? [A] famous lady let me do this. Why aren’t you letting me do this?'”
The woman, the fifth of five complainants to testify at Nygard’s sexual assault trial in Toronto, repeatedly got emotional during her testimony. She broke into tears when she said Nygard mentioned her mother.
“He started to say, ‘Your mom would be ashamed of you,'” she testified.
‘Don’t tell me you’re a virgin’
Nygard, 82, has pleaded not guilty in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement. Justice Robert Goldstein is presiding over the jury trial.
The woman said she had met Nygard when she was 21 during a function at a club in Hull, Que., in 1989. She said they spoke briefly and she discussed her interest in fashion, mentioning that she had created her own fashion line for children.
He said he could help her out and they exchanged phone numbers, she said.
Later, when the woman was in Los Angeles on a press junket, Nygard contacted her family home, telling her mother that he wanted to meet the woman in Toronto.
He arranged a flight for her from Los Angeles and they met at a bar near Nygard’s office, she said. She testified that at the bar, he ordered a plate of oysters as an appetizer. She said she told Nygard, politely, that she wasn’t a big fan of oysters, to which Nygard replied: “Well, you know they are an aphrodisiac.”
He continued, “Oysters are like having a vagina in your mouth,” she said.
The woman was shocked by his comment. She said she tried to steer the conversation to fashion, but Nygard was more interested in her sexual activities — for example, asking how many men she had been with and how sexually active she was.
She said Nygard became agitated when she deflected his questions, at one point saying loudly: “Don’t tell me you’re a virgin.”
When Crown Attorney Neville Golwalla asked her why she didn’t leave, the woman said she had come all that way and hoped they would eventually speak about fashion, and that she thought perhaps these were the kind of conversations moguls like Nygard had.
She said the two eventually made their way to Nygard’s office building and ended up in his private bedroom suite.
The room, which contained a large bed with a leopard print bedspread, felt like it was “kind of a sordid environment,” she said. She noticed there were no handles on the doors to exit the room.
Nygard told her to sit on the bed. She said she was very uncomfortable, nervous and on alert, but she didn’t think she was in danger, considering Nygard’s fame and the reputation he had to protect.
But then she was “blindsided” when Nygard suddenly lunged at her and lay her down on his bed, she said.
“Immediately, I was saying no. And I kept repeating the word, ‘No.’ And would have said the word at least 50 times,” she said.
“What became apparent immediately is my� words were absolutely invisible to Mr. Nygard.”
She said that as Nygard quickly pinned her down, it struck her that there was no way it was the first time he’d done it.
“This person knew how to position his body to disable my body. It was as though he had studied how [to] pin people.”
She said it didn’t take Nygard long to take off her clothes from the waist down and perform various sex acts on her.
She said she continued to struggle, trying to shift her body, but Nygard was like an “angry ogre.”
The woman said he flipped her over on her back and was about to penetrate her when she begged him to put on a condom, out of fear of contracting AIDS.
Golwalla asked the woman why she didn’t leave when Nygard left the bed to retrieve a condom. She said at that point, her body was paralyzed and there was no way out of the room.
She said when the attack was over, she begged Nygard to let her out of the room. Initially, Nygard refused, saying they would do it again in two hours and she would become his girlfriend, she testified.
She said she repeatedly begged him to let her out and he eventually relented.
Woman says she thought about suicide
The woman said that while she wasn’t physically injured in the attack, she suffered terrible psychological trauma. She said she reached such a low point that in June 2001, she planned to kill herself. Painting helped with her healing process.
By 2003, the woman had become a shoe designer and did work for Playboy models, she said. She was invited to Playboy’s annual Midsummer Night’s Dream party, where she encountered Nygard.
The woman said she approached him and told him that 15 years earlier, he had locked her in a room and raped her.
Nygard responded that was “not my style,” she told court, and that “girls can always get out.”
But she said when she brought up his daughter and said that her parents had almost lost a daughter, Nygard became emotional; he touched her arm and “tears started to come from his eyes.”
She said he told her: “I’ve hurt you, I’ve wronged you, I need to make this right.”
“I thought, ‘My God, perhaps he’s changed. Perhaps he genuinely feels awful about this,'” she said.
She said Nygard gave her a business card, but when she later called the number, a man who identified himself as Nygard’s security answered gruffly and told her that he only handled security.
“It was like a bogus number,” she said.
The trial continues Tuesday.